A few months ago, we shared information sex offenders and passports – specifically, a new passport rule affecting registered child sex offenders. Like most US citizens convicted of felonies, registered child sex offenders are able to legally get a passport so that they can travel internationally. The biggest exceptions are people who have been convicted of international drug trafficking or sex tourism crimes.
But with the issuance of a new rule by the Department of State, most registered child sex offenders will have different passports that clearly mark them as convicted sex criminals.
The new rule went into effect on May 11, 2018. Under the rule, the Department of State has the authority to revoke the standard passports of registered child sex offenders. Those people will then have the ability to apply for new passports, but their passports will have a statement printed on the inside back cover identifying them as sex offenders. This designation will not keep them from leaving the country or hinder their travel in general, but some countries may choose to prevent US citizens carrying such passports from entering their country. This is most likely to be the case in countries that have ongoing issues with sex tourism – the practice of international travelers visiting a country in order to engage in sexual activities with underage people.
When we first reported on this rule, the proposed rule stated that the current passports of registered child sex offenders would be automatically revoked when the rule passed. That part of the rule has been changed. Now, even though the rule has passed, the standard passports of registered child sex offenders remain valid unless the State Department chooses to revoke said passports on an individual basis. The State Department could still opt to issue a blanket of passport revocations, but the passports haven’t been automatically revoked.
So what does that mean for people who are on a sex offender registry? (There isn’t just one registry. States, territories, and many American Indian nations have their own registries, all of which can be searched here.)
First, the new rule only affects registered child sex offenders, not registered sex offenders in general. As we mentioned in our previous article, crimes that can result in child sex offender status include kidnapping a child, molesting a minor, sexual conduct with a minor, engaging in lewd acts in the presence of a minor, and viewing or sharing child pornography (whether intentionally or inadvertently). Posting naked pictures of yourself if you are underage can also land you on a child sex offender registry, as can having sex with a teenager when you are also a teenager.
Second, if you are a registered child sex offender but haven’t received any notification about your passport, you may want to speak to a lawyer. If you reach out to the State Department to find out if your passport has been revoked, it seems likely that your passport might get revoked in the process. That said, if you wait until you try to travel to find out if your passport is valid, that could cause major problems for you.
If you are a registered sex offender and have questions related to your passport, please contact the Department of State for the most accurate information related to your situation. You can also read the full rule here.
As always, Swift is available to help you with your passport and visa needs. Visit our website to get started with your application.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.